Date of this Version
Nature Communications ( 2023) 14:3082
Highly pathogenic avian influenza A(H5N1) viruses of clade 18.104.22.168b underwent an explosive geographic expansion in 2021 among wild birds and domestic poultry across Asia, Europe, and Africa. By the end of 2021, 22.214.171.124b viruses were detected in North America, signifying further intercontinental spread. Here we show that the western movement of clade 126.96.36.199b was quickly followed by reassortment with viruses circulating in wild birds in North America, resulting in the acquisition of different combinations of ribonucleoprotein genes. These reassortant A(H5N1) viruses are genotypically and phenotypically diverse, with many causing severe disease with dramatic neurologic involvement in mammals. The proclivity of the current A(H5N1) 188.8.131.52b virus lineage to reassort and target the central nervous system warrants concerted planning to combat the spread and evolution of the virus within the continent and to mitigate the impact of a potential influenza pandemic that could originate from similar A(H5N1) reassortants.
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